Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 31

31 JAN – God Seeks A Dwelling Place (2)

There is this great prospect presented and opened out in Ephesians 4. The ascended Lord gave gifts among men; He gave ministering gifts, apostles, prophets, and so on, for the perfecting, the building up of the body of Christ “till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God”. It almost seems as though what is implied is this: that the goal of this body of Christ of which he is speaking, the Church which is His Body, is the full knowledge of the Son of God. Everything must be linked with that full knowledge of the Son of God.

Now, of course we understand this in a little way from our own spiritual experience and history. Every one of us who has any real spiritual life and history knows quite well that we owe our spiritual growth to spiritual knowledge that has come to us. We say: when I came to know (whatever it might be), when I came to know in a spiritual way, in a vital way, when I came to know that, it made all the difference. From the time I came to know in that way there has been a difference; I have been different, it has meant a great deal to me that I came to know! All the differences are made along that line of progressive, growing knowledge, spiritual knowledge, inward knowledge.

So the Word would reveal to us this: that all that God has intended in Christ for the saints, the great destiny, the great vocation, the great attainment — and what a calling it is, what an on-high calling, as Paul calls it — all that is to be reached by spiritual knowledge, by a progressively and continually coming to fresh inward knowledge. We can say: I know, I have come to know, and I am coming to know, and the Lord is leading me to know! It is like that, that is the way of it. That is simple, but I simply wanted at the outset to emphasize and remind you of the great value and importance that is bound up with spiritual knowledge.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 30

30 JAN – God Seeks a Dwelling Place (1)

What is that which is so near to the heart of God, with which all His interests are bound up? It is God present amongst men: God related to an organism as the Inhabitant, the Occupier, the Indweller of that organism. The simple, plain meaning of a ‘house’ is, surely, something to be dwelt in, to be lived in; it has no meaning unless it is inhabited. God’s thought is to be there, present, indwelling with the object of making Himself known and understood, and with the object of having blessed fellowship with that which comprises the ‘house’.

The Bible contains the history of that thought, that eternal and Divine concept through the ages. It begins with a very simple, primal expression of the thought: the man and the woman in the garden, and God present, walking in the garden, talking, communing, making His thoughts and intentions known. It is a picture of happy fellowship between God and man, man and God. Man is shown in relationship with God, in terms of friendship (if I may use that word), and on a basis of commission to be God’s regent here for the development and fulfillment of His purposes. Everything speaks of peace and order and beauty, and all that the human heart longs for. God has created for Himself a ‘house’, and is in it, and is walking in it, and talking in it. It is there in this simple first representation.

From that point, the Divine intention has a long and chequered history. Remember that all the actions of God are related to that one ‘thing’, and all the reactions in history, recorded in the Bible, are against that thing to drive God out, to exclude God, to bring about conditions in which God cannot be present, to which He cannot commit Himself. It focuses upon this one eternal desire of the heart of God.

You notice how much importance the apostle Paul attaches to this. “I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” And that is not completed even at that point, for he afterwards follows on by saying as something still lying ahead — I press on that I may know Him! He is a man who has a vast knowledge of the Lord but who is so aware of the tremendous importance and value of spiritual knowledge as to put all other things which are of account to men aside as worthless for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 29

29 JAN – God’s Inclusive and Supreme Object

Christianity has many aspects and Christian people are occupied with those various aspects such as evangelism, teaching, building up of believers, or contending for the faith. There are movements entirely devoted to the study of prophetical matters related to the coming again of Christ, and so on. All these are right. But they can, and often do, become things in themselves and, while being so good and right, have the effect of dividing Christians into sections, circling round some interpretation or some teaching or some specific object. The inclusive and supreme object of God, in and through and over all, is thereby very often lost sight of.

What is God’s inclusive object and purpose? It is to build His house. God does not commit Himself wholly or exclusively to any one part of His purpose; He only commits Himself wholly to the all of His intention. God commits Himself wholly to one thing only ― the building of His house.

The inclusive object of God is inherent in the few simple words from the sixth chapter of the book of Ezra: “Let the house be builded” (Ezra 6:3). That is God’s all-inclusive object.

Ezra traced this decree back through and beyond the instrument, the ruler (Cyrus) who made it. He traced it back to God. He recognized that this decree, while made by an earthly ruler, originated with God (v. 22). Ezra said: ‘God put it into the heart of the king.’ (Ezra 7:27) This came from God. And, having shown that it originated with God, he shows how God, in sovereign ways, committed Himself to it. God instigated this; God supported this; and, in spite of numerous and great difficulties, God consummated this.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 28

28 JAN – The Vision is Always Enlarged Upwards

Abraham had a vision of “the city which hath foundations” and he looked for it, but he never found it on earth. He found it at last in heaven, but only as the climax of a walk which was ever upward. Ezekiel was another man of vision. In his “visions of God” he saw the glory lifting from the earthly scene and moving up and on, finally culminating in a spiritual house and river which find their counterpart in the final revelation given to John. It was heavenly, spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the house seen by Ezekiel, “there was an enlargement upward” (Ezekiel 41:7). God-given vision is always heavenly and always moves away from the merely temporal and earthly. To understand this is to be found in ways of vital fruitfulness.

God never works for reduction or limitation, even though at times He may seem to be doing so. When we are able to see as He sees we find that what looks like trimming and reduction is really His way of leading to more spiritual and heavenly enlargement. It was “the God of glory” who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was “the pattern in the heavenlies” that was shown to Moses (Hebrews 8:5). It was “… above the firmament… a throne… and upon the throne… a man above upon it” that Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 1:26). It was that “the heavens do rule” that Daniel apprehended (Daniel 4:26). These are not only sovereign factors in government, but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.

What could have been voluntary with a minimum of loss has often had to be made compulsory with gains that are less than they could have been. This is because we do not from time to time stand back and in detachment wait upon God so that He can adjust and enlarge our vision. Many a work which has mightily served the Lord and been a great spiritual testimony has lost much of its glory and impact by becoming an organized routine which has made no provision for the further light from God which could have come from periods of retreat and waiting upon Him. Without renewed vision there can so easily be a leakage of spiritual power.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 27

27 JAN – We Cannot Cling to the Past Vision

It is very important to remember that God-given vision is never given in completeness at any one time. This is something borne out by an abundance of Scriptural evidence and instances. Such vision is always subject to enlargement. It will always be developed and fulfilled through new phases. This is a law in nature, and nature embodies spiritual principles.

The means employed by God at one time may and very likely will pass or be changed. In the sovereign order of God one particular phase, method or means will pass out, though greatly used and blessed so far. This does not involve a change of vision (unless it is ours and not God’s) but an enlargement of vision. With God all that He uses and blesses, however wonderfully, is only relative and not final or ultimate. Therefore we must not cling to what has been, and regard that as the form for all time. So often this has been a most disastrous attitude of mind, and has resulted in God having to go on with His full purpose in other directions and by other means, and leave that fixed thing behind to serve a much lesser purpose than He wanted with it. Eventually it has spiritually died, although perhaps carried on by human effort and organization. It just lives on its past and tradition.

It is not only something more that is demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will only be safely passed if there is vision of God’s ultimate object. This demands spiritual-mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly things. Our world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and final outcome is what matters. The great pity is that so many just cling to the old framework or partial vision. God presents His heavenly pattern in greater fullness and demands adjustment. He does this with foreknowledge, knowing of a day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But because it seems revolutionary or unlike what God has blessed in the past, it is rejected and put aside. Then the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be resorted to in an attempt to preserve any values for God.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 26

26 JAN – God Deals With Us on the Basis of Our Vision

When God does give vision it is that which becomes the occasion and basis of our testing, our education and our discipline. This is far more important to God than easy fulfilment and realization; than that kind of facilitation which is made possible by God’s overruling. Look at the prophets! They were men of vision. They stood in the gap between threatening disaster and the survival of God’s people. But what discipline they endured because of their vision!

It was their vision which brought all the inward as well as the outward suffering upon them. Look again at Habakkuk. How he cried to God about the situation and then took his position in relation to the vision. It is faith and patience which are the virtues to be perfected, so he realized that “the just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Similarly John, the man of the Patmos visions, described himself as the brother “in… the patience of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

So we may find that although things may be taking a new and different shape, the purpose of God has not changed. We may be presented with His vision in new and more advanced aspects, but it is only what God originally purposed. Can we adjust? Can we leave the things that are behind? Without raising questions as to the right or wrong of what has been in the past; can we go on and grow up as we move towards God’s end?

We thank God that ever He took Paul away from his ministry of travelling evangelism and let him be shut up in prison, for it was then that the full glorious vision and revelation of the “heavenlies” and the “eternal” was given. This seemed to eclipse all the earthly and temporal. It was worth it. What might have seemed a tragedy was not one after all. Satan may have had a lot to do with Paul’s imprisonment and with John’s banishment to Patmos, but from these troubles the Church has gained very much in heavenly values. The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the full purpose of God and under His government the Church and the individual believer will move ever on and up.

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January 25

25 JAN – Emancipation from All that is Less than the Lord

Vision is the background, the foundation, the basis of life and service in relation to the Lord Jesus. Vision has a wonderful power amongst the Lord’s people. One of the effects of true vision, God-given vision, is to emancipate them from all that is less than the Lord, and that is no small effect. It is an emancipating power. This is where vision is needed so badly today. The Lord’s people are so cramped, so small, so narrow, so bound, so shut in, hedged in, so parochial in their spiritual horizon. They are so limited by the common traditional acceptances, by “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be” so far as a system is concerned. That is something which has become static, fixed. Paul himself moved in a very rigid and fixed realm, the realm of “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not,” which had almost countless points of application in the sphere of a very rigid system of religious life, which mainly held him down to this earth. Then he had the vision of the Lord, and in the day in which he received his God-given vision he was emancipated from this earth, emancipated from everything earth-binding even in a religious way. He was emancipated from all that which had so rigidly and firmly, and with such terrific power, bound him all his previous life. It is one of the miracles of the New Testament how a rabid Pharisee, such a deeply dyed Jew as was Saul of Tarsus, should be stripped of the whole of that tyranny and bondage of Judaism, and come right out into a clear place where he said such a thing as this: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

Think of a man like Saul of Tarsus saying that, with all the history behind him, the birth, the upbringing, and the training. It is not easy to get rid of a thing which is in your blood, and has been in your blood for countless generations. That was Judaism. All that tremendous vehemence of Saul of Tarsus as he was, more zealous than the rest; “I advanced… beyond many of mine own age… being more exceedingly zealous…,” he said all that was in the man’s blood. And then you find that man out of it, repudiating it and turning upon it, ready to fight it, with a new force and a new power to lay it low. What has done that? Vision! Not just a mystical vision, but something more than the psychical. It is the miracle of a revelation of Jesus Christ, and nothing other than that will do it. This kind of vision emancipates from all that is less than the Lord, even though it be of a religious order.

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January 24

24 JAN – The Need for an Ever-Enlarging Vision

When you touch the beginnings of Christian life in the New Testament you are touching vision. But when you touch the continuance of Christian life in the New Testament you are also touching vision. The continuance of Christian life is the development, the increase, the progress, which means the greater fullnesses of Christ; and whenever you touch some fuller meaning of Christ in the New Testament, whenever you come to some progress, some movement, some advance, some development, some increase, you will always find it is by fresh vision or revelation. It is a further unveiling, a fuller revelation. It is a new heart apprehension of something presented, and something seen by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. It is so different from merely an intellectual grasp of Christian doctrine, which may fall altogether short of that dynamic power of enlarging the spiritual life. True progress as we find it in the New Testament is on the basis of a fresh revelation, a fuller revelation, a new vision. So that the true, living believer marks his or her progress by being able to say, as at the beginning, I have come to see the Lord in a new way, in a fuller way; and that with the eyes of the heart being enlightened.

What is true of the initiation and the continuation is true of the consummation of the spiritual life. If you touch the consummation of the spiritual life in the New Testament you find it has to do with an unveiling of Jesus Christ. What is the consummation of the spiritual life? It is His appearing, and with His appearing there is closely and inseparably linked the completing of our spiritual progress.

“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” That is the initiation.

“It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall be manifested we also shall be manifested with him… we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.” That is the consummation of the spiritual life.

We shall be like Him because we shall see Him. There is a marvelous changing power in seeing the Lord from the beginning to the end.

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January 23

23 JAN – The First Step in a Christian’s Life

Were I asked what I considered to be a need which embraces the greatest number of vital issues amongst the Lord’s people, I should sum it up in one word, “vision,” vision God-given. If you reflect for a few moments you will see that the Bible is almost entirely a matter of vision, that the whole of the New Testament Christianity is a matter of vision, that all Christian life and service which is that in truth is a matter of vision.

Vision, of course, has two parts. It means something seen, and it also means a capacity for seeing; something presented to be seen, and the power of seeing that which is presented. That is vision. There may be a vision in the first sense which is not seen, a presentation not discerned. It would be very difficult indeed to estimate the value and the importance of vision Divinely given.

In the New Testament another word is used for vision. It is the word “revelation.” That is a very comprehensive word. No matter at what point we touch the New Testament Christian life, we touch vision or revelation.

The initiation, or the initiatory stage, of the Christian life in the New Testament is seen to be a matter of revelation or vision. It is a presentation to the heart and a heart apprehension of the Lord Jesus, and unless that is the nature of the beginning of the Christian life, there is something essential and vital lacking. Any Christian life which is simply a matter of giving a mental assent to certain propositions of Christian truth, and the writing down of the name, for instance, upon a slip of paper, saying that you become a Christian, lacks something which is essential to make that Christian life a mighty force. In the New Testament the beginnings of the Christian life are a revelation of Christ to the heart, and a heart apprehension of Him. It is a matter of inward spiritual vision. It may be of a very elementary character; it may be very imperfect so far as the fullness of Christ is concerned; but it is sufficient for its immediate purpose, and it is tremendously real to those who have it; to those who are able to say in any form of words: I have come to see the Lord Jesus as my Saviour! When that can be said in reality it represents vision, if it is the vision of the heart.

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January 22

22 JAN – The Greatness of the Church

Not many in the House of God realize that the church is more than an institution, an organization, a place to gather on Sundays, a social structure for marriages, baptism and funerals. Tradition of the church as we know it has watered down the church to something that is earthly and mundane, lacking in true spiritual content and substance. The majority of Christians go to church in response to their understanding of church doctrines, rituals.

Now the greatness of the Church is here, that God has ordained and appointed that the Church now, in this dispensation, should be as the living Person of the Lord: where He can be found, where He can be met, where He can be touched, where He makes self-manifestation. Rome has the ‘truth’ regarding this, but has dragged it down on to a temporal, worldly level; but nevertheless the fact remains, He is found there, in the Church, and only in the Church. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them’’ (Matt. 18:20). God can be met, found, touched there; there is the vehicle of His manifestation. So the Church is called to be here in this dispensation, and in the ages to come, the very Body through which God in Christ manifests Himself, makes Himself known. Is that the Church that we know, that is commonly called the Church? (Oh, no! But that is God’s thought, and how different!).

The true Church is nothing less, in the intention of God, than Christ Himself present and going on with His work, now without those earthly limitations of His life before His death and resurrection. The Christ risen, ascended and exalted in all the fullness which God has put in, is now in the true Church, and that Church exists. I say, you cannot identify it; you can only see where two or three are gathered. You cannot say of this or that or some other thing called ‘the Church’ that that is the Church. No, the true Church is still this mysterious thing. It is Christ in active expression. How great is the Church if it is Christ! I say, we can only state the facts. There they are. What we have to do next is to pray to the Lord: O Lord, reveal the true Church and save me from the caricature!

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